What’s the biggest fitness myth?

It seems that more than any other profession, health and fitness is filled with advice that’s only half true, total myths or pure garbage. The collective term for this is broscience. Any diet or fitness advice that has no scientific truth.

Believe me I’ve heard some corkers in my time. Exercising on an empty stomach burns more fat. If you stop weight training the muscle turns to fat. Eating only syrup and water for 5 days is a great way to lose weight. Cardio exercise is the best for fat loss. These are just a few of the urban myths that I spend a large chunk of my time having to explain.

Most of this inaccurate advice comes from the gym floor. Passed down from person to person like Chinese whispers with little bits added, taken away and changed along the way. Unfortunately some of these myths or ‘broscience’ come from so called ‘fitness professionals’ as well. Just take a look at all the infomercials on late night TV and you’ll see what I mean. “Try this gadget for just 10 minutes a day and in just 6 weeks you’ll have a six pack you can play a tune on”. “I went on this diet and lost 6 stones in just 2 weeks. Now I look like a glamour model and men are falling at my feet”. Sure love, whatever. Here’s one of my favourite nuggets of ‘broscience’.

Weight training if you’re a woman can make you look like a shot putter.

Weights female

I remember many years ago teaching a small class and the store cupboard where all the equipment lived contained a shelf full of those 1 kg dumbbells that look like they were bought from a toy shop. Whenever I spotted someone venture out with a pair of these things I would make them put the things straight back. This action was usually followed by “but I don’t want big muscles” or something similar.

I had a young Mum in my class once who was afraid to pick up anything heavier than an eyeliner pencil and despite trying to convince her she wasn’t going to look like an all-in wrestler overnight she insisted on sticking to her pretty pink dumbbells. The following day I was at my local supermarket and I bumped into her walking out with a back of heavy shopping on the end of one arm and carrying her young son with the other. When she came back to my class the following week I referred to our meeting and commented on her son.

“He’s a big lad”, I said.

“Yes'” came the reply. “I often have to carry him around like that”. Then I went straight to the cupboard and came out with an 8 kg kettlebell for her. She didn’t say much to that however I don’t remember her coming back after that either.

We all need to be strong to live our lives on a daily basis. From carrying shopping to decorating and gardening. All these tasks require a degree of strength and therefore it makes sense that you need strength to do them. In turn this increase in strength boosts your metabolism and therefore burns fat. Strength training doesn’t have to mean picking up huge weights either. Using your own body weight can be hugely effective for building strength.

How do you distinguish the truth from the broscience?

Well for starters don’t listen to anything anyone tells you they overheard someone else saying. I’ve learned that any sentence that begins with “I’ve heard that…” or “someone told me that…” will end with another nugget of broscience.

I’m going to leave you with this little beauty. I’ve heard that there’s a slimming club near me whose team leader consistently reinforces the message that there’s no place for exercise in a healthy weight loss plan. That has to be the best one I’ve heard so far.


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